This volume was originally written in Dutch by John Esquemeling, and first published in Amsterdam in 1678 under the title of De Americaeneche Zee Roovers. It immediately became very popular and this first hand history of the Buccaneers of America was soon translated into the principal European languages. The first English edition was printed in 1684.
Of the author, John Esquemeling, very little is known although it is generally conceded that he was in all probability a Fleming or Hollander, a quite natural supposition as his first works were written in the Dutch language. He came to the island of Tortuga, the headquarters of the Buccaneers, in 1666 in the employ of the French West-India Company. Several years later this same company, owing to unsuccessful business arrangements, recalled their representatives to France and gave their officers orders to sell the company's land and all its servants. Esquemeling then a servant of the company was sold to a stern master by whom he was treated with great cruelty. Owing to hard work, poor food and exposure he became dangerously ill, and his master seeing his weak condition and fearing to lose the money Esquemeling had cost him resold him to a surgeon. This new master treated him kindly so that Esquemeling's health was speedily restored, and after one year's service he was set at liberty upon a promise to pay his benefactor, the surgeon, 100 pieces of eight at such a time as he found himself in funds.
Once more a free man he determined to join the pirates and was received into their society and remained with them until 1672. Esquemeling served the Buccaneers in the capacity of barber-surgeon, and was present at all their exploits. Little did he suspect that his first hand observations would some day be cherished as the only authentic and true history of the Buccaneers and Marooners of the Spanish Main.
From time to time new editions of this work have been published, but in many cases much new material, not always authentic, has been added and the result has been to mar the original narrative as set forth by Esquemeling. In arranging this edition, the original English text only has been used, and but few changes made by cutting out the long and tedious descrip¬tion of plant and animal life of the West-Indies of which Esquemeling had only a smattering of truth. But, the history of Captain Morgan and his fellow buccaneers is here printed almost identical with the original English translation, and we believe it is the first time this history has been published in a suitable form for the juvenile reader with no loss of interest to the adult.
The world wide attention at this time in the Isthmus of Panama and the great canal connecting the Atlantic with the Pacific Ocean lends to this narrative an addi¬tional stimulus. Here are set forth the deeds of daring of the wild freebooters in crossing the isthmus to attack the cities, Puerto Bellow and Panama. The sacking and burning of these places accompanied by pillage, fire, and treasure seeking both on land and on sea form exciting reading. The Buccaneers and Marooners of America well deserves a place on the book shelf with those old world-wide favorites Robinsoe Crusoe and the Swiss Family Robinson.
George Alfred Williams.
From the Translator To The Reader (Op 1684).
The present Volume, both for its Curiosity and Ingenuity, I dare recommend unto the perusal of our English nation, whose glorious actions it containeth. What relateth unto the curiosity hereof, this Piece, both of Natural and Humane History, was no sooner published in the Dutch Original, than it was snatch't up for the most curious Library's of Holland; it was Translated into Spanish (two impressions thereof being sent into Spain in one year); it was taken notice of by the learned Academy of Paris; and finally recom¬mended as worthy our esteem, by the ingenious Author of the Weekly Memorials for the Ingenious, printed here at London about two years ago. Neither all this undeservedly, seeing it enlargeth our acquaintance of Natural History, so much prized and enquir'd for, by the Learned of this present Age, with several observa¬tions not easily to be found in other accounts already received from America: and besides, it informeth us (with huge novelty) of as great and bold attempts in point of Military conduct and valour, as ever were performed by mankind; without excepting, here, either Alexander the Great, or Julius Caesar, or the rest of the Nine Worthy's of Fame. Of all which actions, as we cannot confess ourselves to have been ignorant hitherto (the very name of Bucaniers being, as yet, known but unto few of the Ingenious; as their Lives, Laws, and Conversation, are in a manner unto none) so can they not choose but be admired, out of this in¬genuous Author, by whosoever is curious to learn the various revolutions of humane affairs. But, more es¬pecially by our English Nation; as unto whom these things more narrowly do appertain. We having here more than half the Book filled with the unparallel'd, if not inimitable, adventures and Heroick exploits of our own Countrymen, and Relations; whose undaunted, and exemplary courage, when called upon by our King and Country, we ought to emulate.
From whence it hath proceeded, that nothing of this kind was ever, as yet, published in England, I cannot easily determine; except, as some will say, from some secret Ragion di Stato. Let the reason be as t'will; this is certain, so much the more we are obliged unto this present Author, who though a stranger unto our Nation, yet with that Candour and Fidelity hath rec¬orded our Actions, as to render the Metal of our true English Valour to be the more believed and feared abroad, than if these things had been divulged by our selves at home. From hence peradventure will other Nations learn, that the English people are of their Genius more inclinable to act than to write; seeing as well they as we have lived unacquainted with these actions of our Nation, until such time as a Foreign Author to our Country came to tell them.
Besides the merits of this Piece for its curiosity, another point of no less esteem, is the truth and sincerity wherewith everything seemeth to be penned. No greater ornament or dignity can be added unto History, either humane or natural, than truth. All other em¬bellishments, if this be failing, are of little or no esteem; if this be delivered, are either needless or superfluous. What concerneth this requisite in our Author, his lines do everywhere declare the faithfulness and sincerity of his mind. He writeth not by hearsay, but was an eye witness, as he somewhere telleth you, unto all and every one of the bold and hazardous attempts which he re¬lateth. And these he delivereth with such candour of stile, such ingenuity of mind, such plainness of words, such conciseness of periods, so much divested of Rhetor¬ical Hyperboles, or the least flourishes of Eloquence, so hugely void of Passion or national Reflections, as that he strongly perswadeth all-along to the credit of what he saith; yea, raiseth the mind of the Reader to believe these things far greater than what he hath said; and having read him, leaveth only this scruple or con¬cern behind, that you can read him no longer. In a word, such are his desserts, that some persons perad¬venture would not stickle to compare him to the Father of Historians, Philip de Comines; at least thus much may be said, with all truth imaginable, that he resem¬bleth that great Author in many of his excellent qualities.
I know some persons have objected against the great¬ness of these prodigious Adventures, intimating that the resistance our Bucaniers found in America, was everywhere but small. For the Spaniards, say they, in the West-Indies, are become of late years nothing less, but rather much more degenerate than in Europe. The continual Peace they have enjoyed in those parts, the defect of Military Discipline, and European soul¬diers for their Commanders, much contributing hereunto. But more especially, and above all other reasons, the very luxury of the Soil and Riches, the extreme heat of those Countries, and influence of the Stars being such, as totally inclineth their bodies unto an infinite effeminacy and cowardize of minds.
Unto these Reasons I shall only answer in brief. This History will convince them to be manifestly false. For as to the continual Peace here alleged, we know that no Peace could ever be established beyond the Line, since the first possession of the West-Indies by the Spaniards, till the burning of Panama. At that time, or few months before, Sir William Godolphin by his prudent negotiation in quality of Embassadour for our most Gracious Monarch, did conclude at Madrid a peace to be observed even beyond the Line, and through the whole extent of the Spanish Dominions in the West-Indies. This transaction gave the Spaniards new causes of complaints against our proceedings, that no sooner a Peace had been established for those parts of America, but our forces had taken and burnt both Chagres, St. Catherine, and Panama. But our reply was convincing, That whereas eight or ten months of time had been allowed by Articles for the publishing of the said Peace through all the Dominions of both Monarchies in America, those Hostilities had been com¬mitted, not only without orders from his Majesty of England, but also within the space of the said eight or ten months of time. Until that time the Spanish Inhabitants of America being, as it were, in a perpetual War with Europe, certain it is that no Coasts nor Kingdoms in the World have been more frequently infested nor alarm'd with the invasions of several Nations than theirs. Thus from the very beginning of their Conquests in America, both English, French, Dutch Portuguese, Swedes, Danes, Curlanders, and all other nations that navigate the Ocean, have frequented the West-Indies, and filled them with their robberies and Assaults. From these occasions have they been in continual watch and ward, and kept their Militia in constant exercise, as also their Garrisons pretty well provided and paid; as fearing every sail they discovered at Sea, to be Pirates of one Nation or another. But much more especially, since that Curacao, Tortuga, and Jamaica have been inhabited by English, French, and Dutch, and bred up that race of Huntsmen, than which, no other ever was more desperate, nor more mortal enemies to the Spaniards, called Bucaniers. Now shall we say, that these People, through too long continuation of Peace, have utterly abolished the exercises of War, having been all-along incessantly vexed with the Tumults and Alarms thereof?
In like manner is it false, to accuse their defect of Military Discipline for want of European Commanders. For who knoweth not that all places, both Military and Civil, through those vast dominions of the West-Indies, are provided out of Spain? And those of the Militia most commonly given unto expert Commanders, trained up from their infancy in the Wars of Europe, either in Africa, Milan, Sicily, Naples, or Flanders, fighting against either English, French, Dutch, Portuguese, or Moors? Yea their very Garrisons, if you search them in those parts, will peradventure be found to be stock'd three parts to four with Souldiers both born and bred in the Kingdom of Spain.
From these Considerations it may be inferr'd what little difference ought to be allowed betwixt the Spanish Souldiers, Inhabitants of the West-Indies, and those of Europe. And how little the Soil or Climate hath influenced or caused their Courage to degenerate towards cowardize or baseness of mind. As if the very same Argument, deduced from the nature of that Climate, did not equally militate against the valour of our famous Bucaniers, and represent this to be of as degenerate Metal as theirs.
But nothing can be more clearly evinced, than is the Valour of the American Spaniards, either Soudiers or Officers, by the sequel of this History. What men ever fought more desperately than the Garrison of Chagres? Their number being 314, and of all these, only thirty remaining; of which number scarce ten were unwounded; and among them, not one officer found alive? Were not 600 killed upon the spot at Panama, 500 at Gibraltar, almost as many more at Puerto del Principe, all dying with their Arms in their hands, and facing bravely the Enemy for the defence of their Country and private Concerns? Did not those of the Town of San Pedro both fortifie themselves, lay several Ambuscades, and lastly sell their lives as dear as any European Souldier could do; Lolonois being forced to gain step by step his advance unto the Town, with huge loss both of bloud and men? Many other instances might be produced out of this compendious Volume, of the generous resistance the Spaniards made in several places, though Fortune favoured not their Arms.
Next, as to the personal Valour of many of their Commanders, What man ever behaved himself more briskly than the Governour of Gibraltar, than the Governour of Puerto del Principe, both dying for the defence of their Towns; than Don Alonso del Campo, and others? Or what examples can easily parallel the desperate courage of the Governour of Chagres? who, though the Palizda's were fired, the Terraplens were sunk into the Ditch, the Breaches were entred, the Houses all burnt above him, the whole Castle taken, his men all killed; yet would not admit of any quarter, but chose rather to die under his Arms, being shot into the brain, than surrender himself as a Prisoner unto the Bucaniers. What lion ever fought to the last gasp more obstinately than the Governour of Puerto Velo? who, seeing the Town enter'd by surprizal in the night, one chief Castle blown up into the Air, all the other Forts and Castles taken, his own assaulted several ways, both Religious men and women placed at the front of the Enemy to fix the Ladders against the Walls; yet spared not to kill as many of the said Religious persons as he could. And at last, the walls being scaled, the Castle enter'd and taken, all his own men overcome by fire and sword, who had cast down their Arms, and begged mercy from the Enemy; yet would admit of none for his own life. Yet, with his own hands killed several of his Souldiers, to force them to stand to their Arms, though all were lost. Yea, though his own Wife and Daughter begged of him upon their knees that he would have his life by craving quarter, though the Enemy desired of him the same thing; yet would hearken to no cries nor perswasions, but they were forced to kill him, combating with his Arms in his hands, being not otherwise able to take him Prisoner, as they were desirous to do. Shall these men be said to be influenced with Cowardize, who thus acted to the very last Scene of their own Tragedies? Or shall we rather say that they wanted no Courage, but Fortune? It being certainly true, that he who is killed in a Batel, may be equally couragious with him that killeth. And that whosoever derogateth from the Valour of the Spaniards in the West-Indies, diminisheth in like manner the Courage of the Bucaniers, his own Countrymen, who have seemed to act beyond mortal men in America.
Now, to say something concerning John Esquemeling, the first Author of this History. I take him to be a Dutchman, or at least born in Flanders, notwithstanding that the Spanish Translation representeth him to be a Native of the Kingdom of France. His printing this History originally in Dutch, which doubtless must be his native Tongue, who otherwise was but an illiterate man, together with the very sound of his name, convincing me thereunto. True it is, he set sail from France, and was some years at Tortuga; but neither of these two Arguments, drawn from the History, are prevalent. For were he to be a Frenchman born, how came he to learn the Dutch language so perfectly as to prefer it to his own? Especially that not being spoken at Tortuga nor Jamaica, where he resided all the while.
I hope I have made this English Translation something more plain and correct than the Spanish. Some few notorious faults either of the Printer or the Interpreter, I am sure I have redressed. But the Spanish Translator complaining much of the intricacy of Stile in the Original (as flowing from a person who, as hath been said, was no Scholar) as he was pardonable, being in great haste, for not rendring his own Version so distinct and elaborate as he could desire; so must I be excused from the one, that is to say, Elegancy, if I have cautiously declined the other, I mean Confusion.
In the Heritate-History version of The Buccaneers of America, several of the names of towns and regions in the West Indies have been modified with updated spelling for the benefit of clarity to the modern reader.